This morning I am coveting. There are some lovely homes on my street, covered in tropical flowers and shaded by weeping willows. Compact mid-century homes painted charcoal, orange, white, and soft sage green. These homes are not mine, but I want them to be. The house we live in is a mid-century rancher, simple with clean lines and airy spaces. The front windows span the entire length of the living and dining room, and stretch from floor to ceiling. The floors are blonde wood, the walls are a tasteful shade of dove grey, and we’ve filled it with the art we love and comfortable furniture.

This home is not mine, but I want it to be. We rent this space, and I am grateful that we are able to occupy it as residents, even if we sign our checks over to a landlord and not a bank. We’ve owned before; I was only 25 and pregnant with Xander. The house was a large and comfortable split foyer in the south part of town, expensive to heat, expensive to maintain. I don’t think homes that were built in the seventies have the staying power of the homes built in the fifties. When we moved to Alaska the split foyer was put on the market, just in time for the great housing crash of 2008. No one bit at our house, the one that we brought Xander home in, wrapped in the blue crocheted blankets his great grandmothers had made for him. No one bit and we were almost 5,000 miles away, too far to supervise in person the way things were handled. There was nothing to handle. We changed agents and put the house up for rent, and finally someone bit.

The tenants, four young men in graduate school, tore our home up. The kitchen, where I had warmed baby food and bottles, and made espresso after espresso to stay awake during the twilight days of Xander’s babyhood, had been flooded. They didn’t run the disposal, and eventually the muck and the water overflowed, backing into the dishwasher and flooding onto the floor. The agent had the floors replaced, but all of the collected rent was used to pay for the repairs and not our mortgage. We had to pay our Alaska rent (which of course was sky high – rent in most beautiful exotic places is), plus the mortgage on a house that was being dismantled by four boys on their own for the first time. There were more expenses: flea removal (one of the boys had brought in a big stray dog off the street and neglected to have it treated for fleas, and the agent neglected to collect a pet deposit up front), a broken toilet, a strained carpet.

Eventually the tenants stopped paying rent, and lived as squatters until the court order came through to have them removed. The agent starting showing the house to prospective buyers again (this was earlly 2010, and things were looking up a bit). Someone finally wanted to buy the house, but at this point it was a short sale, and the bank said no. After promising to look at offers, and work with us, they said no. We couldn’t afford the mortgage and our Alaska rent any more, so we gave the house up. The bank ended up selling it at auction for 20,000 less than our buyers offered as a short sale. Fuckers.

So our credit is now modest, where it was wonderful. It’s the only bad mark against us, but we still won’t be able to buy for a long time – even if we wanted to. But this house we’re living in is beautiful, and even though it’s not deeded in our name, I feel it sinking into my bones and my memory. Is it a sin to covet your own home? The bright side is that someone else patches things back together when they break, which hasn’t happened yet. As I’ve said, the house was built in the fifties, and is solid and strong and made of brick. Part of me, the small part that is petty, tells me that we don’t deserve it since we couldn’t hold on to the albatross house that we lost. The other part of me is just grateful to be here, in this borrowed space. It’s all borrowed space, though, right? None of us really own anything. It’s when we allow it to own us…that’s when our hearts grow troubled.

But there is this: the other day a sparrow died on the back patio, after crashing into the big rear windows. Xander shouted to come see the dead bird, and I wrapped it in paper towels and put the little bundle in a Target bag. I realized that we don’t have a shovel, so I had to place the bird in the garbage can, instead of burying it in a far corner of the backyard. I asked Xander if he wanted to say a few words in the bird’s honor, since he is usually so precociously profound. He responded, “Why is there bird poop everywhere…did it poop when it died? “ I said that it did, and said a little goodbye before placing it in the bin.

Little things like this, that happen on a Wednesday or Thursday, are the moments that attach us to this place. I struggle not to hold on, but it’s getting hard not to. I’m afraid this place is home, and my roots are finally sinking in and growing deep in the red clay.


11 thoughts on “coveting

  1. Oh, the story about your house is so sad. Damn those tenants. Thank God, however, that you now live in a home you love–even if ownership is off the table for now. It’s okay to covet. You’re human. Happy to hear you are putting down roots.

  2. Oh Chrissy, this touched so close to home. I, too, saw my first home ravaged by renters following my move back to my hometown. (About 250 miles away) It is so terribly difficult to cut the emotional ties and force those dear memories into the back of your mind. I physically sobbed when I saw weeds growing taller than my home’s roof in the yard under the watch of my first renters. I’m so happy that you are beginning to feel grounded in your home (and sometimes it IS nice to have someone else to call when those maintenance issues come up!)

  3. It would be interesting to hear more of the stories from situations like these, wouldn’t it? It’s hard not to attach to these places, and to watch them change or fall apart.

  4. You and I are alike in that way….there is some resistance on my part to fully docking. I want to, but I find it hard to trust places.

    Your house sounds lovely. Renting is ok (all we have ever done), but it sounds like you want a bit more. xo

  5. Do you know the Madeline book, ‘Madeline and the Gypsies’? There’s a repetitive verse in it that goes, “Gypsies do not like to stay. They only come to go away.”

    I have loved floating, but everything that rises must fall eventually. Maybe it’s because I’m an Aquarius (air sign)!

  6. so sorry to hear about your house. What a horrible experience it must have been. I used to live in a beautiful house which I coveted, but it was never mine and never would be. Still we had lots of happy memories there and it will always be a part of us and our family. When we had to leave it was very sad. I get very attached to buildings, because the space around me is important to me it’s a big part of what makes me feel safe and secure and happy, ultimately. Our current house is functional, but I have no connection to it. We haven’t put down roots here, but weirdly it’s quite nice to feel a little detached, for a change. We go away more, spend less time here… I want my own home now though I feel a little displaced right now.

  7. I, too, resonated with this sharing, Chrissy. I loved my home back in Ventura, the home where Maycee was first brought to live, that housed her little crib-only a travel size because the room was too small to fit the rest of the furniture we had in there along with a full-size crib- the clean walls, the new carpet, the pretty cabinets and vaulted ceilings. I loved that it was new, that no one had ever lived in it before, that I could walk Maycee in her stroller down to the Circle K and get icees or an ice cream, or eat breakfast at the little corner cafe frequented mostly by locals. So many memories for me-her dad made plans for us to move no sooner than we had signed on the dotted line-I never got that, but it didn’t happen the way he planned, for sure. Then, fate took me and Maycee elsewhere, and now we are building roots in a town and place I never dreamed. But, like you, I’m slowly sinking into these walls, to this land, to this area and starting to call it home. There are days I wish I didn’t fork over my entire retirement fund to buy the yellow sub, and there are days that I’m grateful I feel obligated to stay put because of that very action…for Maycee’s sake…so she can grown up with the friends she’s made and not be forced to start over every few years. I love your writing; you take us with you, and it’s wonderful even amidst the harder times. 🙂 XOXO-SWM

  8. You know, I want to do a post where I show the before and after pictures. I haven’t gotten it all together yet, as I have a few more rooms in the house to paint, and I want to put in new carpet and flooring. But, I do have the photos saved to file for that exact purpose! Thanks for the encouragement, Chrissy! XOXO-SWM

"... all my lovers were there with me, all my past and futures."

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